Returning to our hotel following the opening of Gjergj Kola’s exhibition ‘Three Legends of Albania’ held at the Albanian Embassy, we concluded that another fresh fish dinner in Plaka was off the menu. This is not to criticise having dinner in Plaka or the freshness of the fish, but more-so due to the comparison of the cost of each fish to that of a similar sized sculpture by Apostol in his wonderful Athens Art Gallery nearby.

It was a hot Monday. After disposing of the more formal aspects of attire, we drifted into Mitropoleos and strolled towards Monastiraki. I enquired of the better half concerning her preferences on this 30 degrees plus late evening, and received confirmation that, given our requirement to rise at 03 30 am, a quick café style meal with a glass of red would be perfect rather than a full dinner in Plaka.

I noted and queried the desirability of a few cafés we passed, but received rejection reports. A few further restaurants and outdoor eateries received similar reports, until she who must be obeyed (SWMBO) declared that a particular eatery in front of which we stood, common to many streets for dinner in Plaka, met her requirements. I commented that she would have a choice of lamb Moussaka or chicken Souvlaki, and was rebuffed with the comment that she desired only grilled octopus. Turning about face with infinite patience I commented that we had passed such a restaurant with indoor tables but a few hundred metres earlier.

Hand in hand we headed back towards Syntagma and arrived at the well-lit open-style restaurant that we had passed 15 minutes earlier and I had time to note the statuesque hostess, anointed in an olive translucent floor length gown wearing flat heels, and of a height that many men would not be able to reach.

While we were being placed at a table for two, an eager waiter rushed past to the next table grabbed the bill folder and let out an audible sigh as he realised the American tourists who had just left had actually paid. Maybe he knows something about the service or has been serving dinner in Plaka for many years.

Seated, SWMBO selected her grilled octopus, classified with an asterix, defining it as either synthetic or frozen, and I chose some small pink fish, fried. Our carafe of local red arrived with the customary water in the hands of the same eager waiter. While awaiting our repast I noted that the packaged napkins were dated 1935 and wondered which month they would expire.

The octopus arrived, about 30 pieces with a spoonful of aubergine salad, and as our eager waiter deposited it he succeeded in flicking my partner’s wine glass causing it to topple and smash on the table expelling the contents on the table, wall and my shirt cuff. STRIKE ONE. From nowhere another waiter arrived to assist cleaning every unseen drop from my partner’s right breast, while failing to notice any wine on my asexual cuff. Reparations were made at the table and my partner’s wine was replaced with a glass about 60% full representing the institution’s estimate of the quantity distributed around the restaurant from the breaking glass. I noted this act of economic generosity.

Meanwhile our eager ‘dinner in Plaka’ trained waiter collected the residues, and lifting his tray, apparently at too large an angle, proceeding to lose balance and a bottle tilted, knocking the once broken glass to the floor where it continued its entropic decay. STRIKE ONE, ONE OUT AT SECOND BASE.

My partner, in a moment of sympatic generosity, slowed consumption of her octopus as my fish had not arrived. After an appreciable delay and some querulous looks and enquiries to the waiter, he appeared in all his pride with a plate holding 5 little pink fish, very fried.

He endeavoured to place it in the centre of the table rather than in front of me, and in so-doing he knocked the plate of octopus, sending the remaining portions into the air, a number of which descended to the floor. The same reparation team undertook rebirth of our meal and I was not too surprised that one of the waiters returned with 5 pieces of grilled octopus on a small plate, apparently the number that had been measured to have achieved their ultimate trip to the restaurant floor. STRIKE TWO, TWO OUT.

Taken only slightly aback, having now become accustomed to oddities of dinner in Plaka at this establishment, we proceeded to quietly consume our repast, avoiding seeking too much engagement with the staff. On completion and somewhat forceful avoidance of desert, I sought and received the bill, which I settled in cash that I left in the bill folder on the table, and we took our long awaited escape from the pleasures of the entropic palace.

As we closed the glass door, I turned around to see the eager waiter rushing to our table possibly to grab the bill folder but, slipping as he approached, probably on the residues of the earlier red wine incident, and sliding, as a baseball player into ‘home’, into the leg of the table, bringing it all down upon his unfortunate self.